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Holden gets ready for Cadillac return
The CTS mid-size sedan is set to be the opening salvo in Cadillac's return
16 Nov 2004
By BRUCE NEWTON
HOLDEN is developing its plans for the distribution and sale of the GM global Cadillac luxury brand in Australia, although its return has yet to be officially announced.
The opening salvo in Cadillac’s first modern-era foray into Australia should be fired by the CTS mid-size sedan, STS long-wheelbase luxury car and the SRX cross-over, the latter a good chance to come as rear and four-wheel drive.
All three cars are available with the Global V6 engine, while the STS and SRX also get the Northstar 4.6-litre V8.
The bad news is that the V8 CTS-V sports sedan would not be on the list at this stage because of design issues related to right-hand drive adaptation.
But Holden is examining the possibility of running a right-hand drive engineering program for the striking XLR retractable hard top convertible.
It is built on the platform of the latest Corvette C6 generation and Holden chairman and managing director Denny Mooney confirmed his ambition would be to get the Corvette’s steering wheel moved to the other side so it could be sold in Australia as well.
"I am going to scheme and see if we can do something right-hand drive with the C6 architecture," said Mr Mooney.
"I don’t know whether I will get it done but I can tell you I am already scheming on it.
"XLR doesn’t need to be high volume, it just adds to the image of the Cadillac brand.
"It’s a great car to see on the road, it’s a $US75,000 to $US80,000 roadster in the United States, it’s a two-seat roadster, and what’s the market for $US80,000 two-seat roadsters?"There is not a lot of volume, but it’s image. It is a beautiful car, when you see them on the road there is no question what you are looking at. It does not blend in with a lot of the other coupes that are more jellybean-shaped."Mr Mooney has been an advocate for Cadillac since he took over at Holden a little over 12 months ago, reflecting the US-born ambition for Cadillac to take on the German luxury brands and Lexus globally.
He has taken heart that Australian media are consistently liking the new generation of cars – with their striking styling and strong engineering based on the Sigma architecture (except for XLR).
"Everybody was asking me about Cadillac and I said it was the right product," he said.
"I saw a few people rolling their eyes and I am sure there still will be. But ultimately the product will speak for itself. I am confident about that."Mr Mooney said Holden executive director marketing and sales Ross McKenzie was playing a key role in developing the plans for Cadillac’s return.
"Ross has been looking at our distribution and dealer network and working on a strategy of how we do that," Mr Mooney said.
"I think it is a high likelihood it will happen, but it hasn’t been approved yet. But it could in the very near future."The V6 CTS would kick off the range priced around $70,000-$80,000 and the STS will be above $100,000. The XLR? If it ever made it, anywhere above $150,000 or "way, way premium" in Mr Mooney’s words.
The SRX could be the most interesting pricing story with the free trade agreement ending any penalty against importing the cheaper two-wheel drive version.
Pricing could run the gamut of the BMW X5 and Mercedes-Benz ML line-ups, which means from around $70,000 to the mid-$100,00s.
Mr Mooney said he was confident it was good enough to go up against its German rivals.
"The thing I like about the SRX and the difference between an SRX and a BMW X5 as an example is we have got the third row of seats," he said. "And we have also got the MagnaRide technology.
"And I am not trying to be critical, but the X5 is a hard ride the way it is tuned. It’s a BMW, but I’ve got to say the MR technology gives Cadillac the advantage to make that a nice ride, a sweet ride."
DRIVE IMPRESSIONS:WE wouldn’t call these drive impressions definitive by any stretch, more short blasts that give us a taster. They were drawn from the opportunity to drive a variety of Cadillacs during the biennial GM Global Product Seminar in southern France, as well as on the Paul Ricard test track.
STS: The biggest and newest Cadillac is not only meant to be a competitor for the likes of the BMW 5 Series and Mercedes-Benz E-class, but is also a clear example of how far the brand has come.
A few years ago I drove its predecessor, the Seville STS, in Europe, where GM was conducting a limited import program. Ordinary would be a complement. It was big on the outside, cramped on the inside and hopelessly compromised as a drive because of its heavy weight and front-wheel drive layout.
The STS is a new ballgame altogether. There’s plenty of space inside as well as a lot of length outside, which you particularly notice on the tight and narrow roads of southern France While the exterior retains the angular look so clearly laid down by the XLR and CTS, the interior of the STS is surprisingly simple and uncluttered – how un-American. No sign of a BMW-style i-Drive controller, or a plethora of buttons as often happens in Benzes. It’s a very different interpretation and visibly a bit cheaper because the plastics quality isn’t as good as the German efforts, or even the Cadillac SRX cross-over.
On the road the dohc 32-valve Northstar V8-equipped STS was very quiet, but did not seem especially powerful in this era of 6.0-litre LS2s and the like,. producing 238kW and 459Nm. It mated well to its five-speed automatic transmission, but obviously you can look for GM’s new generation six-speed appearing soon with the car.
The ride and handling equation produced a little more pitch and roll than you would expect from the German marques and it did crash over the major road corruptions, but this is a quantum leap over the old Seville. The STS’ steering is light but not sloppy. It’s a good rear-wheel drive chassis though, although the car also comes with an optional all-wheel drive system.
Would it sell? Seems to be more of a 7 and S-class competitor in terms of attitude and behaviour rather than pitched against the smaller, sportier mid-size offerings.
SRX: Some vehicles you get into and drive and the feel right from that very first moment. The SRX is like that.
Again, distinctive in its edgy style that lends itself well to the bulk of the cross-over, it is a cohesive and competent handler with a ride that would be rated outstanding in the class.
MagnaRide undoubtedly plays a role in this. An electronically controlled magnetic-fluid based real-time damping system, it really does keep the SRX well pinned down and able to push along without getting untidy or coarse, particularly taking into account its height and 2053kg weight in V8 all-wheel drive form.
At 239kW and 428Nm the VVT Northstar V8 rails against the weight a little, but it works beautifully with its five-speed auto to deliver a smooth drivetrain experience.
Again, the interior quietness was impressive and the presentation sensible. Lots of space and the third row seat add to the impression of competence.
The one thing we couldn’t do was challenge the SRX off-road. But then, its natural habitat is private school parking lots for the daily drop-off and pick-up. We’d bet this would be the most popular car in any Cadillac lineup in Australia.
CTS-V: This is the sports sedan that all HSVs should aspire to be. Grip, grunt and go sure, but delivered with a taut feeling that this car has been hewn from solid.
There’s been no shortcuts taken here, from the sound of the exhaust to the short throw feel of the Tremec T56 six-speed manual gearbox, sports tuned suspension and the Brembo brakes that repeatedly pull up strong, this is a great bit of gear.
Powered by a 298kW 5.7-litre LS6 small block V8, CTS-V claims a 0-60mph acceleration time of 4.6 seconds and a top speed of 262km/h. If Cadillac continues this level of performance throughout its V-series range then M Sport and AMG have something to think about.
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